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Success Stories

Gary Meraz

Ten years ago my life was far from the successful and happy one that I am living today. I would like to tell you about how New Directions was instrumental in helping me reclaim my life, family and friends.

I was born in Los Angeles in 1954. When I was ten, my mother committed suicide and my two brothers, two sisters and I moved in with our grandparents in East Los Angeles. I started experimenting with drugs in Junior High school. When I graduated at 17, I joined the Navy and was sent to Guam for active duty.

I returned home without a stable support system and reconnected with old friends who drank and used drugs. It wasn’t long before I found myself falling into old habits. Despite my addictions, I was able to hold a job working for the V.A.’s accounting department, then at the LA Herald Examiner doing payroll. I also worked at the Rapid Transit District as a bus driver. However, finally, the drugs and drinking got the best of me and I became homeless.

I spent approximately 19 years homeless, moving between the streets, skid row, and temporary housing. My first real attempt at recovery was in 1996 through the VA RTC (Residential Treatment Center), but I relapsed several times. In June 2000, I returned to enter the RTC program yet again, but there were no beds available, so I was referred to New Direction’s detox center to wait for one to open. When a bed was available, I requested to stay at New Directions’ instead. I liked the daily routine I was able to experience while in detox. I found the staff to be very dedicated and caring, and bonding with other veterans also made a difference in my recovery. I knew the other program hadn’t worked, so I was willing to try this one.

As it turned out, New Directions was the missing link in my rehabilitation. I made it through the entire program in a year. I graduated with a full-time job, money in the bank, and permanent housing. I stayed active as an alumnus, participating in the New Directions aftercare program and other events. I eventually became hired as a full-time employee, starting as a detox intake specialist. Today I am a Program Supervisor, overseeing a 50-bed facility called New Directions North.

I have been clean and sober now for 10 years. I am trusted once again by family members, including my daughter and my ex-wife. My daughter refused to speak to me while I was in the program, which was the biggest motivator of all to clean up my act. Throughout the past 10 years I have developed and repaired my bond with her. Additionally, I have healthy relationships with many friends. I have a great deal of gratitude toward New Directions – not only for helping me to become sober, but also for offering me a job and a permanent support system. I have come full circle, giving back to others what was once given to me.